The article discusses the costs and benefits of “paper-on-demand” (POD) electronic document management systems for courts; proprietary versus open standards; word processing formats; PDF; other image-based formats; XML; and NIEM, the National Information Exchange Model, an important XML interchange standard for U.S. government entities.
Here is a summary:
The severe budget cutbacks generated by the recession have been a driving incentive for courts to explore the merits of converting to a “paper-on-demand” (POD) electronic environment. For example, an ROI (return on investment) study in Manatee County, Florida, revealed a cost saving of almost $1,000,000 based on e-filing their 2,321,252 documents per year (Shore, Singer, and Pettijohn, 2009).
In POD courts, documents are e-filed to the court or scanned into the system upon receipt. This electronically stored document is accepted as the original, while the paper documents can be returned to the filer. In addition, multiple users can view documents from their workstations simultaneously. This desirable working environment is being sought by courts throughout the country. King County (Washington), Oregon, Missouri, Colorado, and Orange County (California) have been trendsetters in POD efforts, while large projects are underway in Iowa, Massachusetts, and Alabama, just to name a few. [...]
Courts must be careful in their electronic document decisions. Some vendors may try to lock them into proprietary file formats to preserve their application and licensing revenue. Courts should attempt to leverage standards-based electronic file formats when possible.
Not all court users will be comfortable or proficient with certain electronic document formats. Some formats may have the buy in from the bench or the bar, but many may not be easily or readily available to those in court without lawyers, or may require more firsthand support than the courts or vendors are prepared to provide. Take into account these access considerations before settling into a particular format/solution.
The POD court is an ideal worth striving for; however, there is still more work to be done so that the word-processing applications can support the needs of the justice system. It is possible to create NIEM-compliant justice-document applications today with common word-processing tools and some additional programming. Therefore, courts should be selective in these efforts due to the cost of development. And, it is hoped, that in the near future software tools will be available that are integrated into our common applications.